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Showing posts from October, 2011

What is Sin?

Eating apples isn't necessarily sinful. If there's one thing we all know about sin, it's that it isn't good. But what exactly is it? The closest we get to a one verse answer in the Bible is that 'sin is lawlessness' (1 John 3:4). So, does that mean sin is committing crimes? Does that mean sin is really bad stuff like the looting and rioting that went on during the summer? A 'yes' answer would come as a relief to most of us. After all, we're not criminals. We even disapprove of the criminal behaviour we hear about on the news. Yet the Bible tells us that 'all have sinned' (Rom. 3:23). How can it be? It can be, because the law we're talking about when we talk about sin isn't the law of the United Kingdom (or whatever country you happen to be sitting in), but rather, God's law. That means sin isn't just the serious crimes we hear about on the six o'clock news; sin is anything that goes against what God has said

Jesus lived for me

A living lamb. This one might have spots and blemishes, but the Lamb of God didn't. Christ’s sinless life is of the utmost importance for our salvation.  He needed to be sinless in order for His sacrifice to be acceptable on our behalf.  He could only bear our sins because He had none of His own.  Indeed, we ‘were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot’ (I Pet 1:18-19). However, this is not the only significance of Christ’s sinlessness for our salvation.  Christ’s sinless blood, shed for us, secures the forgiveness of our sins.  Yet this only brings us back to the state of Adam and Eve at the beginning in the Garden of Eden.  At that time they didn't have eternal life.  They would have had to continue in obedience to God (keep His covenant) in order to be established in righteousness and receive eternal life.  Yet Christ, like Adam, is our covenantal represe

One Cup

'Again, there is to be one cup, just as there is one loaf. The church is one body, for Christ is not divided into one hundred or more fragments.' Robert Letham, The Lord's Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread (Philipsburg: P&R, 2001), p. 42 'As we share the same cup, we realise that we have an equal share, a common interest in the same Saviour. We realise that we are all on the same level - just sinners saved by grace. There is a greater unity and sense of oneness.' Edwin Williams, 'The Lord's Supper', Riches of Grace , vii 5 (May 1932), p.214

Missing Verses and Theology

Long mine imprisoned spirit lay Fast bound by sin and nature's night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light: My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. So goes the fourth verse of Charles Wesley's well-loved hymn And Can It Be . Or at least so it goes if you live in the UK, for one day I was leafing through the hymnbook of a certain American Pentecostal denomination which happened to be lying around at work (yes, it's true, that is the sort of place I used to work) only to find that their version of And Can It Be only has 3 verses (as opposed to the traditional 5) and that this particular verse is one of those missing. As this is one of the greatest of all hymns, and this verse is a great verse in its own right, I've been wondering why it's missing from aforementioned American hymnal. As I see it, there are two possible reasons (okay, I admit there are in fact more po

Songs for the Lord's Supper

When it comes to songs for the Lord's Supper, maybe I'm a bit picky. What I don't want are songs that just focus on remembrance. Why not? Well, for two reasons: The Lord's Supper is about more than just remembrance! In the Supper we feed on Christ in our hearts with thanksgiving. People often have a tendency to revert to a functional Zwinglianism, so I don't want songs that would reinforce that. Instead I want our singing to remind us that in the sacrament, those who receive in faith, partake of Christ and all His benefits. Remembrance isn't about remembering to remember - it's about remembering what Christ accomplished through His death.  Some worship songs for communion make much of the act of remembering, but then skim over the details of the gospel we're supposed to be remembering. When we remember and proclaim the Lord's death, we're remembering and proclaiming the fact that Christ bore the full weight of God's wrath for our si

And Can it Be

And Can it Be is one of my favourite hymns. There are few worship songs of any age that can compare to its celebration of the gospel and wonder at the grace of Christ. It's been re-hymned a few times and I've always been disappointed at the results. Sagina (the hymn tune its normally sung to) has some quality that sets it apart; it doesn't sound like other hymns, and so it draws attention the great lyrics. There are so many great hymns with terrible tunes that could do with re-hymning, why not do something for them instead? So, when I saw a few months ago that Phatfish were going to be releasing a new re-hymning of And Can it Be on their latest album, I wan't all that enthused. But I was wrong. Today I heard it. It's beautiful, contemplative, and draws fresh attention to the words, and thus to the wonders of the gospel. So, here it is. Enjoy. Worship. And survey the wonders of the Cross.

Do Benedict and Rowan have a point?

The Bishop of Rome recently divulged his thoughts concerning the growth of Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity around the world: 'Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon . . . poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse?' Benedict XVI , Erfuhrt, Germany, 23rd September, 2011 Benedict admits the 'missionary dynamism' of what he looks at as 'a new form of Christianity', yet he goes on to bring a major critique. His Anglican counterpart in Canterbury has also given his view of Evangelicalism: 'I t is  something that I think became very important to me at one or t

Why we still need church government in a 'post-denominational' age: A Biblical case for Council

The Council of Nicea. (You can tell it's not a picture of last year's May Council because we don't wear hats.) We live in an increasingly post-denominational world. Independent churches and loosely affiliated networks abound. 'Surely that's the way of the future', it might seem. But, there is one argument that can turn our attention away from what seems to be in vogue: the New Testament demonstrates a church government that doesn't stop at the doors of the local church. One way in which the New Testament shows church government going beyond the local is in the concept of Council. The word Council isn't actually used, but the concept is certainly there. The major biblical example of Council, is the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. The Jerusalem Council was held to decide upon an important matter of doctrine. Yet the actual manner of the convening of the Council is worth noting. Paul and Barnabas didn’t go up to Jerusalem for Council because it was

Nigerian Gospel Treasure

The city of Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. This is where Pastor Philip Olowo is from. The imputation of Christ's righteousness. That's what the Nigerian pastor spoke about. He extolled the virtues of Christ's active obedience, made sure his listeners were clear on the truth of justification by faith alone, and came back again to the theme of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Throughout the evening he reminded his listeners of what Jesus did for us at the Cross and encouraged them to walk in the Spirit. And he prayed; godly prayers, biblical prayers. I remember it well, for it was just last night and I was sitting right beside him. A few months ago, Conrad Mbewe, a faithful, sound, gospel-preaching, Zambian pastor wrote a warning about Nigerian religious junk . Later D.A. Carson interviewed him about it at the Gospel Coalition. (Mbewe is actually very clear in both his article and the interview, however, that Nigeria isn't actually the country of orig

Recommended Reading on the Lord's Supper

     The Lord's Supper is at the heart of the life of the church. Right from the very beginning we're told that the Body of Christ ' continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers' (Acts 2:42). So here are some helpful books to encourage you to learn more about something so important. ·          Richard D. Phillips, What is the Lord’s Supper (PRP, 2005) A short booklet (30 pages) looking at the biblical teaching and theology of the sacrament. ·          David Allen, Neglected Feast: Rescuing the Breaking of Bread (Expression/New Life Publishing, 2007) A short, easy to read book written by a lecturer from a British Pentecostal Bible college. I've blogged about this book before . It even made my list of top books I read in 2009 as my top Pentecostal book. Back then I'd borrowed it from the library, but didn't know where to get my hands on a copy to buy. Since then I've found ou

Sam Storms on the Gifts of the Spirit

I saw this book a long time ago in a Christian bookshop and promptly ignored it. You see, despite what they say, I do tend to judge a book by its cover. However, on that occasion, to do so was a mistake. Now, I've sought out the book. And again, I suppose, its due to the cover. Or at least, due to two words on the cover: Sam Storms. The difference now is that I've encountered Sam Storms' writing on other subjects. Storms is a careful theologian, and so any book he writes is going to look carefully at Scripture. And, Sam Storms is also a good writer; he can take theology and make it understandable and readable (for alas, there are two many theologians who can take simple theology and make it both complicated and tedious!). He is after all the author of Chosen for Life (an excellent overview of the doctrine of unconditional election). And I'm glad I sought out The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts . Storms doesn't disappoint. Although he does give examples o

Of Ordinations and Apostolics

Ordinations are great occasions. They're celebrations of the gifts that Christ has given to His Church. They point us to God's grace and purpose and to Christ's Headship in the Church. And that means they're times to rejoice and be thankful as we celebrate together what God has done and what He will do. On Saturday night we gathered together in Bradford for the ordination of an apostle. God has been doing good things in Bradford and it was exciting to see their pastor ordained as an apostle in the body of Christ. And it was great to join together in worship with people from all over the north of England. In fact, it reminded me of some of the good things about being Apostolic: Unity. It was good to see people from Derbyshire, Newcastle, Teeside and Sunderland, as well as from all over Yorkshire. There was a real sense of our unity in one body. Grace. We may have come from all over for a man's ordination, but the focus throughout was on God's action.